If you are a queer person living in America, you know life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, especially if you live in a conservative state; queerness is still seen as something bizarre and unnatural in some parts of the US. I grew up in one of those conservative states, and let me tell you, life as a queer person and someone who doesn’t conform to the gender binary is really hard. I’ve been at both ends of the queer spectrum in the US, I lived in a conservative state, Texas, and now I lived in arguably the gayest city in the US, San Francisco. So, I know a thing or two about what’s life is like to be closeted and openly out and proud about my sexuality and gender identity. Having said this, let’s look at some of the Laws that currently protect LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) people in the land of the free.
Basic facts and information you ought to know.
27 out of the 50 states have no explicit law that protects queer people from being discriminated against based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. They may be refused service and not given a job based on how they express themselves and who they love. Some of these states are Florida, Texas, Wyoming, Louisiana; if you try to find a pattern where there is an obvious one, most of these states are red or republican majority states.
On the other hand, Wisconsin has explicit laws that protect people from discrimination in employment, public accommodation, and housing based on their sexual orientation but not on their gender identity. It is good to know that Wisconsin is a very divided state which barely turned blue during the last election. While other states like Utah have some LGBTQIA+ protection as it prevents discrimination based on one’s gender identity and sexuality when it comes to employment and housing but not for public accommodation.
And you’ve guessed it right, only 21 states have full queer nondiscrimination policies and laws in place, and yes, most of them are liberal in their voting tendencies. They protect people in employment, housing, and public accommodation irrespective of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Some of these States are Hawai’i, New York, California, and Washington.
Know your rights!
As mentioned earlier, 21 states protect queer, trans, and non-binary people from any kind of discrimination in public accommodation, the workplace, and housing, but according to the supreme court, we are all protected from discrimination in the workplace. According to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VII, to be precise, if a company has 15 or more employees, then it can’t discriminate against someone based on their sex. Some courts in the US apply this Title VII to discrimination cases based on sexuality and gender identity. If you ever feel that you were discriminated against in the workplace based on your gender identity and/or sexuality, you should contact the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
2. School and other educational institutions
According to the 1972 Education Amendments, Title XI, to be more precise, bans any kind of discrimination based on one’s sex in public school bu nowadays, several federal courts and states have ruled that this title also encompass harassment and discrimination that queer students face if you took your concerns to the school and higher-ups. Nothing has been done, then make a record of all the things said to you and everything the school did or didn’t do to solve these issues. Take all these to your local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and they will help you from thereon.
Title XI of the 1972 Education Amendments also protects all harassment based on someone’s way of dressing and behavior that might not conform to our binary notion of gender; this includes girls wearing pants, boys wearing makeup, and non-binary and trans students. These are also protected by the first amendment as the freedom of expression applies to dress codes too. The first amendment also protects your rights to express yourself; this means you can take whoever you want to prom irrespective of their gender.
3. US passports
You still have to check whether you are male or female on the passport application, and you should choose whichever feels appropriate to your gender identity because as of June 30th of this year, you no longer have to show medical documents to update it establish your gender on the US passport. They are also working to implement an x designation like in Australia for non-binary people and others who don’t fit in the binary male or female. Expect to see this new marker by the end of this year or the beginning of the next.
Remember, as a US citizen, your rights are protected according to the States and the laws that govern this country, so you should always stand up if you feel like these rights are being tramped. Sound off in the comments section below and tell us your experience as a queer individual.